New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard secured a convincing win in the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) category at the weekend's Rally of New Zealand, round 5 of the 2010 World Rally Championship. Paddon and Kennard are the first New Zealand crew to win a round of the PWRC.
Starting the event Paddon and his South Canterbury-based team, Team Green, were confident of a strong showing, targeting a maximum 25 point haul on the first PWRC event on their 2010 calendar.
"The rally could not have panned out any better," said a delighted Paddon after he and Kennard achieved their primary goal of being the top PWRC crew home, along with some unexpected bonuses. Using their Team Green Mitsubishi EVO IX, the pair had a significant lead of 3.46 minutes after 396.5 kilometres over their closest rival fellow Kiwi Emma Gilmour to take the PWRC category win in Rally New Zealand. 
"The icing on the cake was finishing as the first New Zealand crew home, 14th overall and being the round winner in the New Zealand Rally Championship standings."
"It has been a fantastic weekend for us; we could not have asked for a better result. There is no better feeling than achieving what you set out to, despite the ever-changing circumstances of a sport like rallying," said Paddon.
Paddon is now two events into a two-pronged international campaign for his 2010 season. The former double New Zealand rally champion won two driver development programmes in 2009. The first is the FIA Pirelli Star Driver programme which sees Paddon and Kennard contest six WRC events in a fully-funded Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X.
"Four of these events we're doing in the Pirelli car also count for PWRC points. In order to be in contention for the actual PWRC title, we needed to add two more PWRC points-scoring events to our schedule. We selected Rally New Zealand and Rally Japan, using the funding we won from Rally New Zealand’s Rising Stars International Award towards the budget needed to contest these events in our Team Green car."
With this year's Rally New Zealand route heading both north and south of its Auckland base, Paddon and Kennard had a clear plan to make the most of some of Paddon’s favourite rally stages in the Kaipara and Whangarei districts.
Day one the team started 17th, right in between the two crews they regarded as their biggest competition for maximum PWRC points; with former PWRC champ Toshi Arai and Daniel Barritt in front and Richard and Sara Mason behind.
"The morning of day one, we were aiming to find a nice rhythm to set us up for a charge in the afternoon, but before we got to the afternoon stages, Richard and Toshi were unfortunately both out. This left us in the position of effectively consolidating our position for the rest of the event."
"Day two, and we were taking a very measured approach to managing our significant lead in the PWRC standings over Emma and another Kiwi Kingsley Thompson. In front, Mark was charging on as the best-placed Kiwi in a Group A Mitsubishi. Winning that honour wasn't our priority - but then Mark crashed and we toke over the mantle as top Kiwi."
"To be honest, without anyone to compete against directly, it was very difficult to drive at a steady pace for the majority of the rally. There was not one stage that we pushed hard on. But our plan for the event was not to be the fastest on every stage, but more to be consistent and make no mistakes. This is something that I learnt from Turkey [Paddon's first Pirelli Star Driver event in April]; it's not the stage times that matter, it is the end result and to do it without a scratch on the car is even better."
"It was very unfortunate what happened to Mark, but to be the first Kiwi home for the second year running really was the icing on the cake for what was a special weekend for the whole team. It is a real testament to all the work that the team has put in during the off season," said Paddon.
With a lead of almost four minutes for the final day's four stages, Paddon could afford to nurse an ailing clutch through one of New Zealand rallying's toughest stages, Whaanga Coast.
"We had some heart-in-the-mouth moments with the clutch, given we were so close to the end, but we just adapted to the situation and avoided using it at all, which worked out fine."
Paddon and Kennard's maximum 25 point score jumps them straight into fifth on the PWRC championship leader-board. The pair has five of their six nominated rounds to contest while several other competitors in the category have already completed three events. Their maximum New Zealand Rally Championship points score also moves them into fourth in that championship despite missing the opening round in Otago.
The team's next event is with the Pirelli Star Driver team for round six of the World Rally Championship, Rally of Portugal.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back in the Pirelli EVO X," said Paddon. "Portugal is a bit like Turkey as it is a non-PWRC event for us, which means we can simply concentrate on getting more time in the car and getting to the finish in the best possible shape."
For further information see the team's website,
Hayden Paddon's 2010 calendar
16-18 April - Rally Turkey (PSD) – First PSD, 26th overall, 7th Group N
6-9 May - Rally New Zealand (PWRC)
28-30 May - Rally Portugal (PSD)
2-4 July - International Rally of Whangarei, New Zealand
29-31 July - Rally Finland (PSD, PWRC)
20-22 August - Rally Germany (PSD, PWRC)
10-12 September - Rally Japan (PWRC)
30 September-3 October - Rally France (PSD, PWRC)
11-14 November - Rally Great Britain (PSD, PWRC)
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